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[sticky post] Notes to Self about Writing Life

1. Just be yourself. Don't schmooze, don't obssess, don't get weird, don't get all theater. It's served you well, being yourself all this time. Stick with it.

2. Just write. Keep at it steadily, keep at it carefully. Do it conscientiously, do it to the best of your ability.

3. See number one again, especially when you feel insecure about number 2.

4. Believe you have a story to tell. Then don't put it off. Tell it.

5. Accept that some people will like your work, some people will not like your work, and that's okay. You write because you have a story to tell. It's nice if someone will read your story, but if they don't, well, not everyone in the world or even the Western hemisphere is going to read your story. And that is okay.

6. Writing can change the world, but is not the most important job anyone will ever have on the planet. You are not telling deep truths about the universe. You are telling a story. Get over yourself.

7. See number one and number three again, just in case you need a reality check. Never believe your own press.

8. Keep doing something you enjoy that keeps you in touch with people and makes you feel that you are making a contribution to the world, because you can turn into a mushroom if you're writing only. A strange, weird, psychologically fungal mushroom, I might add. And then you might drink.

9. Do not pass judgment on the writing of others. Do not compare your writing to the writing of others. You can have opinions about things you read, but unless you are asked, you might want to keep them to yourself, especially where other writers are concerned. Play nice.

10. Expect others to play nice with you. Avoid pseudo intellectuals and non constructive critics. Hell, you don't need them. You have your worst critic, yourself, to contend with already.

11. The industry is not the measure of your success. Attention is not the measure of your success. Of course you want to send your work out, make smart marketing decisions, and try to share. The measure of your success is stories written and sent. You can't convince the world it wants your work, but you certainly can't do anything at all unless you're telling stories.

12. Realize that success in writing, like success in anything, is really more about persistance than anything else. Write, learn to market selectively and well, and then market selectively and well. There will be a learning curve. You will battle obscurity. You will make mistakes and get rejections. BUT eventually you'll have enough circulating and people will know who you are, and you'll learn the tricks, and your writing will line up with someone's taste, and more and more things will be accepted.

13. See 1, 3, and 7 again, especially in moments of personal angst.

14. See 2 and 4 again, especially in moments of procrastination.

15. See 4, 5, 9, and 11 again, especially in moments where you lack faith.

16. See 5, 9, and 10 to remind yourself of grace.

17. See 6, 7 and 10 to remind yourself that you're not curing cancer.

18. See 8 to maintain your balance.

19. See 12 when you feel like giving it up.

20. If you're not satisified anymore, if it's causing you consternation, cease. Walk away. Writing is important. A happy life is much more important than that. Anything must give you joy for you to continue it. Don't settle.

I don't know if you've heard me say this before, but just in case, this is my number one ambition as a writer: to have a character who lives. One who lives so well that you know the character, even if you don't know me. You know what I'm talking about. Those books where you talk about the character like they are a person and the author seldom comes up. The essence of being a fan.

I've read a lot of very worthy books over the years by many excellent writers. Having a character who lives (to me) beyond the scope of the book is not the only hallmark of excellent work, but since this is my ultimate goal creatively, I thought I would talk about some of the characters (and the people who have written them) who have made me want this goal. These characters will span 51 years of reading. Some of them are new to me, and some have been with me a very long time.

Currently, I am reading another of Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant mysteries: Whispers Underground. Peter Grant is a living character. Living characters do not have to be written in first person, but Peter is. He has a good sense of humor. I know about his family, what he thinks about his job, how he feels about his friends, and I have some pretty good guesses on how he spends his spare time. I've seen him cool under pressure, quick to investigate, and heartbroken about love gone wrong. He feels real to me.

Of course, all that depth to Peter is supported by good story. The initial book of Peter's series Midnight Riot is uniquely British, which appeals to me as a half-British kid. Peter is protagonist of color, a white jazzman from England for a dad and a black cleaning woman from Sierra Leone for a mom. The hybridization of these cultures, as well as his familial legacy, resounds in almost every decision Peter makes. While Midnight Riot depends on plot and introduces Peter, in Moon Over Soho Peter becomes resoundingly a character who breathes, as we see him deal with the aftermath of something terrible that happens to his friend Leslie in the first book, we see him work with his new abilities, and we see him fall in love. And now, as I read Whispers Underground I see Peter grow and become even more.

The best part of a series sometimes is that a writer does have the opportunity to make a character familiar and alive, and while it can also be done in a single book, still that leisure to explore is, I think, one of the best ways to create a memorable character.

In two weeks: Enola Holmes.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Unreliable Narrators Posts 9-12-16

And here's the Unreliable Posts from the last time we talked.

Attack of the Kaiju: We talk about all things giant monster, and some things not.

Book Review--The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders. George reviews a book!

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

7/7/7 AND 15 in 15

Some friends asked me to do these two authory things on Facebook. Better late than never!

I won't be tagging anyone, because I don't tag, but if you like these, and you want to participate, be my guest. (Cue dancing candlelabras, etc)

The first one is 7/7/7. From the short piece I am drafting for Paradise Icon, here are seven lines of text (ish) from page seven of Everywhere Girl, a near future novel I will get back to some day.

"You know she's going to," Sango said. Gina's anthem about not being anyone's toy, anyone's plaything. A provocative set of lyrics for an Utaumaton who was literally everyone's play thing, as long as they could shell out the yen for her latest incarnation.

The crowd listened politely as Gina continued her speech. "Well, then, everyone, let's have fun tonight, okay? I am so happy to be in Osaka!"


And 15 in 15. Name 15 authors who have influenced your writing. Do it in 15 minutes. Okay...

1. Mervyn Peake
2. Peter Beagle
3. J.R.R. Tolkien
4. C.S. Lewis
5. Charles Dickens
6. Jane Austen
7. Ai Yazawa
8. Mikhail Bulgakov
9. Christopher Kastensmidt
10. Terry Pratchett
11. Alexandre Dumas
12. Caroline Stevermer
13. Pamela Dean
14. Mary Stewart
15. Edward Gorey

That's my list and I'm sticking to it.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Wake Up Call

I am back from Worldcon, also known as Midamericon 2.

First of all, I want to say that I had a great time at the convention. I managed to get together with a lot of people I know and enjoy. Most of my time was spent being social and I really, really enjoyed that, although it really wore me out as well. There was simply a lot going on. Too much, I think. I overplanned.

The panels I attended were good. I particularly liked World Building in Five Questions, which the panelists decided was not possible, but in a very humorous way. I participated on two panels: one about voice in audiobooks and podcasts, where I learned a bit, and another about NonAnglophone writers, which was a real highlight because the other presenters were pretty impressive. The Tor party was loud, raucous, and excellent. I felt like a real writer among real writers. All to the good.

We did line up 7 interviews for the podcast. That's terrific.

But you know, there were two really salient revelations.

Ken Liu amazed me this con. I went to his reading. I was very appreciative of his versatility, his professionalism, and his talent. Could I have what Ken Liu has? Well, I don't know about the talent, but yes, I can write more and goof off less. I could be more prolific. The trick, the real trick is to be excited to write, to realize that writing and creating is the reward, is the activity done preferentially. I have a lot to write, and I'm not getting any younger, and there are stories that would give me joy just to write them. Writing gives me joy. So let's get down to brass tacks and not only Ken Liu's example, but the example of all the wonderful, prolific, busy writers I had the opportunity to hear and talk to at the convention.

I love the podcast. I love interviewing writers. I will keep doing that. The focus becomes creating.

And the next part, kinda emo, so you need not go there. I cannot seem to get the cut to work, so please avert your eyes if you don't want to see that kind of thing.

I think I need to back away from all but the closest of my connections. Because frankly I'm not good at the social thing, when you get down to it. I'm good at a certain, superficial level, but I've made some hard choices in my life and I am warped by them. There's a reason why my dearest and closest are few, and it probably has something to do with kindness toward me in spite of me. These people are kind enough to understand what I really can't explain adequately because I am from a very different planet.

I realize I'm out of my league in the convention-verse. I was raised by horrible people wolves and am broken in some very fundamental ways. The cons I attend primarily to spend time with my dearest and closest will continue. Other venues? No. I don't think I can be trusted to dance the convention tango. The tenuous peace I have established with myself and my own integrity may be problematic, but it is how I stay anchored to self and sanity. And that's pretty important to me, obviously.

I am sorry for any consternation I caused concerned friends.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

World Con: MidAmericon 2

Yes, I will be there. You knew that.

Here are the two panels Dr. Catherine Schaff-Stump will be on. Oh, the hubris!

Saturday, August 20, 10 am - 11 am. Finding a Voice in Podcasts and Audiobooks. 2502B Kansas City Convention Center. Both of these media-types are well established, but what really makes 'voice' in both podcasts and audiobook narration? The panel discuss ways of representing and discussing the author, their characters and other types of media through sound.

Just stepped up to moderate this one, so I have a little planning left to do.


Sunday, August 21, 11 am - 12pm. Non-Anglophone Writers You Must Know. 2208 Kansas City Convention Center. Most of the world is not English speaking, so as the minority, what should English-language users start to pay attention to so that we can start to read outside of our own communities - even if that will be in translation most of the time?

Come here me talk about (mostly) some excellent Japanese SF/F. Also, come here me talk about how English is the Esperanto of the new century!


I'll be all over this con from about 2 pm on Thursday until about 3 pm on Sunday, give or take. I'm gonna hit Thursday's swing dance super hard.I've made arrangements to catch up with some folks, but please let me know if you're there, so I can say hello!

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Unreliable Narrators Posts

Before I list recent posts, I just want to let you know that we'll be releasing this week's interview with Ann Leckie early because of World Con, AND we will be broadcasting from World Con each day we are there. So, you can live vicariously through us. Oh yeah!

New posts? Here we go!

Romancing the Show

Tech Spotlight: Dan Novy

Author Spotlight: Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

August: The Most Interesting Month

Hello, cats and kitties!

I returned to work on July 27th and immediately plunged into the world of beginning my year as faculty association president at Kirkwood (round 2--I did this 2002-2003, a lifetime ago) and then began to prepare to be gone over the two Fall Kick-Off days. You would be surprised at how much paperwork it takes to create a virtual me. Well, I did all that and as of today have completed my World Con prep for panels as well. So, that's all as it should be, and I'm looking forward to connecting with people and being on panels at World Con. I'll post my schedule a little later in the week.


Meanwhile, in the rest of my life, there has been a confluence of strangeness all hitting at the same time. Some of it was well-meant strangeness, but when you have a lot planned, sometimes, the early isn't ideal.

The above work preparation I knew about. Also, we knew Bryon's mom was going to get a tumor removed from her bladder. It is a slow growing cancer, and after the lab results, they're going to give her one more chemo treatment to reduce the chances of it coming back. She's 90, so we're thinking that will be the end of it for her and the cancer will trouble her no more. It's a good diagnosis.

What I didn't expect? People doing things faster than I expected, which is usually good. Like the geothermal guys starting outside about two days after we gave them the green light to transform our 160-year-old house into Environmentally Friendly Manor. Our backyard has had four giant wells drilled into it, and a couple of giant mole men furrows leading to our house. Who knew our yard was full of limestone chunks my husband took it upon himself to carry out of our yard so we could get it to become a yard again? Also, who knew, like when a grave settles, you have to leave giant channels of earth on top of the ground, letting them naturally settle until you can take the backyard to "rough" grade again?

Yes, I know that now. There were also indoor hijinx.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Perfectionism and the New Writer

My comparative online silence has been me doing the pre-edits for The Vessel of Ra for Curiosity Quills. I've been pretty open about my writing journey throughout these last several years, and I thought you might enjoy a little conversation about the process.

For those of you who don't know me, I teach writing, mostly to students whose first language is not English, but occasionally to native speakers of English as well. We writing teachers are all about the multiple drafts. Take time to revise, polish, proof, fix. This is vital for someone who is writing in a language not their own, and important for students who might be less than perfect in their grammar and writing.

Well. I don't know whether it's the 30 years (if you start counting from my first TAship) that I've been reading student papers, or if it's that I am a person who likes to cross things off my list, BUT I am the worst proofreader of my own stuff. Hey, there are theories that everyone is, but I do know I expect more of myself because I work with other people's writing mistakes for a living. I have never had the happy ability to be someone who can spot a typo across a crowded room (I'm looking at you, Lisa Martincik!). Honestly, with my own work, I think I have cleared all the mistakes out to find that they have magically crept back in when I look at it two weeks later. Hmmm. Sounds like someone needs an editor.

Well, thanks to the fine folks at Curiosity Quills, I have an editor. I had my first round of edit suggestions with pre-edit notes which were mostly grammatical and formatical (is that a word? It is now!) And I was astounded at how poorly edited the last half of the novel was. Because surely I had been more careful than that! And there it was! Imposter syndrome! I'd just gotten lucky to have my book accepted, because you know, that last half was soooo unworthy!

As I worked my way through my embarrassment and self-disappointment, I realized what I tell my students is true. Revise, revise, revise. Give yourself time and distance between drafts. I am a perfectionist, but drafting is a process. Words will not fall from my mouth in all of their golden splendor, perfect the first time. I have to revise and revise and revise and I will get to a bright and shiny draft. And I'll get that opportunity a lot. And each time the book will shine more.

So. There are a couple of myths about writing that experience is teaching me are myths. Writing is solitary. Not so much. Support from people around you, good feedback at every level, and people to even help you with the psychology of it, these are invaluable. Myth the second? The book is a product. Nope, guys, it looks like the book is also a process, and just like a term paper, we eventually abandon it because we run out of time, but there will always be ways to make it better.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

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